Friday, 30 September 2011

And, of course, Littlejohn...

It was something of a surprise that Richard Littlejohn didn't mention the BBC BC/AD non-story in his column on Tuesday. But he just couldn't resist.

Today, under the headline Whatever the BBC say, Britain is still mainly white, Christian and straight (has the BBC ever said the opposite?), Littlejohn proclaims:

Only this week the BBC announced it was scrapping references to AD and BC because it didn’t want to offend, or discriminate against, non-Christians.

And here, again, is what the BBC actually 'announced' 'this week' about this issue:

It is incorrect to say that the BBC has replaced date systems BC and AD with Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE). Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology, it is possible to use different terminology, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research. The BBC has issued no editorial guidance on date systems, and the decision rests with the individual editorial and production teams.

So: did Littlejohn know his statement was untrue, and wrote it anyway, or did he not bother to check his facts, and so wrote out of complete ignorance?

And how many more times is the Mail going repeat something that it must know is not true?

(Thanks to all who got in touch about Littlejohn's remark)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

And on it goes...

The BBC BC/AD saga rumbles on.

Two days ago, the BBC published a response to the complaints it had received on the issue:

It is incorrect to say that the BBC has replaced date systems BC and AD with Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE). Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology, it is possible to use different terminology, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research. The BBC has issued no editorial guidance on date systems, and the decision rests with the individual editorial and production teams. It should also be noted that for every BCE or CE reference, there are still a great many BC and AD references used across the BBC.

But the Mail's Steve Doughty has decided to completely ignore this and repeat the original lie. In today's paper, he writes:

The finding that the nation remains overwhelmingly Christian comes days after it emerged that BBC programme-makers have been put under pressure to stop describing dates as BC or AD.

Instead, they have been told to use the non-Christian alternatives Before Common Era and Common Era.

To Doughty, 'no editorial guidance' and 'decision rests with the individual editorial and production teams' means 'programme-makers have been put under pressure' and 'have been told'.

Hopefully, Full Fact will now include this in their complaint to the PCC on this issue.

(Hat-tip to build_a_fire)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

More cross-promotion from Richard Desmond

The Wednesday editions of the Daily Express and Daily Star can hardly contain their excitement about the launch of the new Health Lottery:

Despite the fact it has only launched today, the Express article by Padraic Flanagan explains that it is:

Britain's biggest lottery

Of course, it was to be expected that these papers would give the lottery such glowing, prominent coverage. Why?

Because the Health Lottery is being run by Northern and Shell - the Richard Desmond-owned company that also owns...the Daily Express and the Daily Star.

One thing the papers probably won't mention is the criticism levelled at the Health Lottery for giving 20.5p of every £1 ticket to good causes, compared with the National Lottery's 28p.

'Rich and thick'

Mail diarist Ephraim Hardcastle, 14 June 2011:

The Queen doesn't have any horses running at Royal Ascot this week, but her new in-laws Carole and Michael Middleton are hoping they will.

They own a share in the highly-rated Sohraab, which is expected to race on Saturday. The horse is also part-owned by David Cameron's mother Mary and trained by the Middletons' good friend Hughie Morrison – son of one of Scotland's wealthiest landowners, the late Lord Margadale.

Morrison, 50, is endearingly nicknamed Ambrosia after the Devon-based pudding manufacturer which describes its produce as 'Rich and Thick'.

Mail diarist Ephraim Hardcastle, 27 September 2011:

My apologies to racehorse trainer Hugh Morrison for referring facetiously to him being ‘endearingly nicknamed Ambrosia’.

We accept this is quite untrue.

Sportingly he has asked me to make a donation to Racing Welfare.

My just desserts.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The 'BBC drops BC/AD' lie continues to spread

Yesterday, the Mail on Sunday's front page story claimed that the BBC had 'dropped' the abbreviations BC/AD and ordered that BCE/CE be used instead. The former had been 'replaced' and 'jettisoned', it said. The BBC had 'turned its back on the year of our Lord'.

There was much in the article that proved this wasn't true. The examples where both had been used. The quote from a BBC presenter saying he'd continue using BC/AD. And, most importantly, the relegated-to-the-end-in-the-hope-no-one-sees-it quote from a BBC spokesman which stated:

'The BBC has not issued editorial guidance on the date systems. Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams.'

In case there was any doubt, the BBC also told the Guardian's Reality Check:

Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology it is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research.

So BC/AD is used as 'standard' but the BBC allows people to use BCE/CE, based on personal preference.

Knowing that is the case, why did the Mail on Sunday decide to run its 'BC/AD dropped' story? And why have other newspapers and columnists continue to repeat the 'ban' lie as if it is true?

On Sunday, the Telegraph's website churned out a quick news story that repeated the claims despite also including (at the end, of course) the BBC's quote denying them.

In the Mail's RightMinds section, James Delingpole said of the BBC:

No longer will its website refer to those bigoted, Christian-centric concepts AD (as in Anno Domini – the Year of Our Lord) and BC (Before Christ)...All reference to Christ has been expunged.

This depite the BBC's denial - which he doesn't mention - and despite the fact there are many references to BC and AD on the BBC's website.

Either Delingpole knew this, and wrote that the terms had been 'expunged' anyway, or he didn't check, and wrote it without knowing for sure. It's very poor practice either way. And that's not a first for Delingpole - he also repeated the £32-loaf-of-bread nonsense a day after that first appeared, despite it being completely wrong.

On Sunday evening, RightMinds ran another column on the subject, this time from Reverend Dr Peter Mullen, who once 'joked' about tattooing homosexuals with health warnings. It begins:

No one should be surprised that the BBC has stopped using the abbreviations all us have always known: BC for Before Christ and AD for Anno Domini - the years of our Lord.

Since they haven't, it's not the best start. And it doesn't get any better:

Because the BBC is the very vanguard of the secularizing tendency which has declared itself as wanting to obliterate Christianity from public life and the public discussion of important moral and political affairs.

This hatred of our Christian heritage...

To be honest, I don't think the BBC's undoubted loathing of our Christian heritage is the main issue.

They just loath anything that smacks of tradition and value and Englishness, of all that most of us were brought up to respect.

Like Stalin or Pol Pot, the BBC would like to abolish all reverence for the past

Mullen's rant was published at 6.27pm on Sunday night - less than an hour after BBC1 broadcast 30-minutes of hymns and tradition in Songs of Praise: 50 Amazing Years. Earlier in the day, BBC Radio 4 had broadcast Sunday Worship. Every weekday the same station broadcasts Prayer for the Day, Thought for the Day and the Daily Service. Is this the BBC's 'undoubted loathing of our Christian heritage'?

Moreover, thirty-five minutes into Sunday's episode of Antiques Roadshow expert John Axford used both BC and AD. This was two hours after Mullen had told everyone the BBC had 'stopped using' the abbreviations.

It was somewhat inevitable that Melanie Phillips would also mention it in her column in Monday's Daily Mail. She said the BBC:

has decided that the terms AD and BC (Anno Domini, or the Year of Our Lord, and Before Christ) must be replaced by the terms Common Era and Before Common Era.

Either she hadn't read the BBC's statement - or even, as a journalist, spoken to the BBC for clarification on the matter - or she decided it was worth ignoring.

She says:

One of the most sinister aspects of political correctness is the way in which its edicts purport to be in the interests of minority groups.

This is despite the fact that, very often, they are not promulgated at the behest of minorities at all, but by members of the majority who want to destroy their own culture and who use minorities to camouflage their true intentions.

The latest manifestation stars once again that all-time world champion of political correctness, the BBC.

But then she adds:

It so happens, however, that along with many other Jewish people I sometimes use CE and BCE since the terms BC and AD are not appropriate to me.

Do as she says, not as she does. If the abbreviations are not 'appropriate' to her, why should they be 'appropriate' to everyone who works at the BBC? Phillips also refers to the BBC's 'edict' on this matter but the 'edict' is, as the BBC has made clear, 'use whichever terms you want'.

She then points to some examples of BCE/CE being used - not ones she has found through any research, but ones highlighted by the Mail on Sunday:

the terms CE and BCE are now increasingly finding their way onto news bulletins and on programmes such as University Challenge or Melvyn Bragg’s Radio Four show In Our Time.

Thursday's edition of In Our Time is already being trailed on the BBC website:

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Etruscan civilisation.

Around 800 BC a sophisticated civilisation began to emerge in the area of Italy now known as Tuscany.

Phillips wider argument is that language is being 'hijacked' and so:

debate becomes impossible...words...have come to mean the precise opposite of what they really do mean.

But what about the BBC's words? How can a debate be possible on this topic when the Mail on Sunday, Delingpole, Mullen and Phillips refuse to take on board what the BBC has said and what it actually does? How does:

Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology it is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to

become, to Phillips:

AD and BC...must be replaced by the terms Common Era and Before Common Era.

Words have indeed come to mean the precise opposite.

(Moreover, Phillips uses her column to claim 'Christmas has been renamed in various places 'Winterval'' despite the fact it hasn't been renamed Winterval in any place.)

And Phillips wasn't the only one in today's papers taking the same line. In the Telegraph, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: now turns out that some BBC committee or hierarch has decided that this nativity – notional or otherwise – can no longer be referred to by our state-funded broadcaster...

You know what, I just don't think this is good enough. This decision by the BBC is not only puerile and absurd. It is also deeply anti-democratic...

Johnson appears to believe in the myth of some centrally-issued edict that is banning the use of BC/AD at the BBC. But what he's actually calling 'deeply anti-democratic' is a position that says 'individuals can do what they wish'. Indeed, Martin Robbins argues that it is the Mail's view - 'It's not enough that the BBC allows staff to use AD, they must use it, always' - that is the more problematic.

As well as the columns by Johnson and Phillips, there have been further 'news' articles in today's papers. The Express' headline - 'Atheist' BBC drops year of Our Lord' - was very similar to the Mail on Sunday's. The article stated:

Bosses advised staff to replace Anno Domini – the Year Of Our Lord – and Before Christ with terms Common Era and Before Common Era.

The Mail and Telegraph both quoted BBC presenters who maintain they will be sticking to BC/AD yet both papers still refer to a 'diktat' and 'guidance' that the terms are 'barred'. The Mail's article puts the BBC's denial earlier in the story than the Mail on Sunday managed, yet it still carries the headline: Andrew Marr says he will ignore BBC diktat to stop use of BC and AD.

At the time of writing, there are 900 comments on Johnson's article, over 100 on Phillips' and over 1,500 on the original Mail on Sunday story. The vast majority are attacking the BBC for some 'edict' that they haven't, actually, issued. The story has been repeated on countless blogs, websites and forums and been linked to by outraged people on Twitter.

The BBC's position - BC/AD is standard, but people can use whichever they want - has generally been forgotten or ignored.

To quote Phillips again:

The result of this hijacking of the language is that debate becomes impossible because words like...truth and many more have come to mean the precise opposite of what they really do mean.

(Hat-tips to Mark Burnley, Jem Stone and Martin Robbins)


On 21 September, MailOnline ran this headline and story:

'Nobody has seen a creature quite like this one before.'

Not so. Just over half an hour after the first comment was left on the article, Jamie from Wisbech pointed out it was a cuscus.

There then followed dozens more comments identifying the 'mystery creature' as a common spotted cuscus.

How did they manage that, given 'nobody has seen a creature quite like this one before'

(From Darryl Mason)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

BC and AD not 'jettisoned' by BBC

Last Sunday, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens wrote:

The BBC’s Chief Commissar for Political Correctness (whom I imagine as a tall, stern young woman in cruel glasses issuing edicts from an austere office) was hard at work again last week.

On University Challenge, Jeremy Paxman referred to a date as being Common Era, rather than AD. This nasty formulation is designed to write Christianity out of our culture.

One week on, and his paper has decided this observation is worthy of the front page lead:

The article by Chris Hastings begins:

The BBC has been accused of 'absurd political correctness' after dropping the terms BC and AD in case they offend non-Christians.

The Corporation has replaced the familiar Anno Domini (the year of Our Lord) and Before Christ with the obscure terms Common Era and Before Common Era.

'Jettisoned'. 'Dropped'. 'Replaced'.

But skip to the statement from the BBC - inevitably relegated to the very last paragraph of the story - and we're told:

The BBC said last night: 'The BBC has not issued editorial guidance on the date systems. Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams.'

So the BBC uses both. Indeed, Hastings' article proves BC and AD haven't been 'jettisoned' when he points out:

The terms are not confined to religious output and have also been used in news bulletins. Some reports add to the confusion by switching between both terms in the same item.

He goes on to quote several people unhappy with the BBC, who seem to believe BC and AD have, indeed, been 'dropped' (probably because that's what Hastings told them when he asked for their reaction). But he also gets a quote from Today and Mastemind presenter John Humphrys who says:

"I will continue to use AD and BC because I don't see a problem."

Despite this Hastings believes his story is true and he knows what's behind it:

This is not the first time the BBC has caused controversy over its use of alien language to promote a politically correct, Europhile agenda.

It's not clear why CE and BCE are deemed 'alien' or 'Europhile'. It's not as if the terms are new - the Mail on Sunday includes a box which dates them back to the mid-nineteenth century. It also says they are becoming 'particularly common in the United States'.

In the article, Simon Schama says he's been 'familar' with BC and BCE 'since the Fifties'. And, as Hastings points out, it's not even as if the BBC has only just started using the terms - one example he highlights dates from March 2010:

Last year, Northern Ireland correspondent William Crawley referred to the construction of the Temple of Solomon in about 950 BCE.

So Hastings has the BBC quote denying the terms have been dropped. He has a prominent BBC presenter saying he's going to keep using the BC and AD. And he has his own evidence saying BBC journalists are 'switching between both terms'.

Yet Hastings still writes the article in this way, and the Mail on Sunday still splashes it all over the front page.

UPDATE: James Delingpole has a comment piece on this in the Mail's RightMinds section. He apparently sees this 'news' as evidence of a:

Marxist plot to destroy civilisation from within

He says:

No longer will its website refer to those bigoted, Christian-centric concepts AD (as in Anno Domini – the Year of Our Lord) and BC (Before Christ)...All reference to Christ has been expunged

If only the BBC website didn't prove him wrong.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Mail reports joke as fact

On Tuesday, Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine tweeted:

Followed by:

Apparently missing that the first comment was tongue-in-cheek, the Mail rushed into action with a 'bash-the-BBC, Christianity-under-attack' classic:

At time of writing, however, the Mail's article has disappeared, quietly deleted from the Mail's website as it realised Vine's comment may not have been entirely serious.


Well, the Express published the story in Wednesday's paper, on page five:

BBC presenter Jeremy Vine sparked a row yesterday after claiming he had to ask bosses for “special permission” to play a Christian hymn on his show – for fear of upsetting other religions...

It is understood permission had to be given by BBC bosses in case playing a Christian hymn was seen as promoting one religion over another.

But skip to the end of the Mark Reynolds' story and there's this:

Last night a BBC spokeswoman said the presenter had not been serious on Twitter. She said: “Jeremy tweeted a light-hearted remark to highlight the fact he doesn’t normally play hymns in the show. Of course he did not need approval to play the hymn.

How Reynolds 'understood' why permission had to be given when it didn't isn't entirely clear. And why would he need permission, if they are 'keen' to find the nation's favourite?

The Mail's website has not printed the BBC's comment, or clarified why their article was deleted. But their version of the story has already spread across the internet.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

'We accept that she does not have cancer'

The following apology was published by the Daily Record in Scotland today. It is not currently available on their website:

Dr Helen McGlone

In our article of 29 April "I'm too skint to pay the bill for cancer", we reported that Dr Helen McGlone had "begged a judge for help as she cannot afford expensive radiology which could help her fight the disease."

Dr McGlone has asked us to make clear neither she, not her advocate, Andrew Smith QC, begged the court for help.

We accept that she does not have cancer and therefore does not require radiology treatment.

We are happy to make her position clear and offer her our apologies.

(Hat-tip to Scott)

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Sun corrects '£32 loaf of bread' story

On 19 and 20 July, several newspapers reported that the NHS was purchasing gluten-free bread for £32.27 per loaf. The Mail, Mirror, Express, Sun and Telegraph all carried the story. It appeared that none of the journalists bothered to check the facts - if they had, they would have found the cost for a single loaf was closer to £2.82.

To its credit, the Express ran its correction the day after it published the original.

Yesterday - two months later - the Sun finally published its correction:

Price of coeliac loaf is £2.82
We reported on July 19 that the NHS paid £32.27 per loaf of non-gluten bread, given on prescription to sufferers of coeliac disease. In fact, the cost per loaf is around £2.82, £32 being for an average prescription of several loaves. We are happy to make this clear.

At the time of writing, this does not appear on the Sun's website. The original article and the accompanying editorial, are both still on there, however. Neither has had the correction added.

The correction ran on page six of yesterday's paper whereas the original article appeared on page nine. But compare the prominence of the original:

with the size of the correction:

Yes, it's the smallest headline and shortest article on that page.

Given that the story was proved to be wrong within a day of its publication, it's not clear why it took the Sun two months to correct it.

It's also unclear when the Mirror, Mail and Telegraph will correct their versions - all of which remain live.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Sorry we 'suggested' you were dishonest

The Mail has published the following apology today, eighteen months after the original article appeared:

Osmond Kilkenny

On March 27, 2010, in an article headlined ‘Family at war over Subo’s millions’, we reported concerns of Susan Boyle’s family about her then manager Mr Kilkenny.We did not intend to suggest that he was likely to manage Miss Boyle’s finances dishonestly and accept this is untrue. We apologise to Mr Kilkenny for this suggestion.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Express reveals another 'miracle'

Here we go again:

Yes, it's another Express front page headline about health that promises to reveal some great secret. The sub-heading sounds promising: 'Experts develop a miracle diet that is key to saving lives'.

And what is this 'miracle'? Well:

Taking more exercise, eating more fruit and vegetables, reducing alcohol intake and slashing the amount of saturated fat in our diet

This may sound a tad familiar. In August, the paper revealed that 'experts' had found the 'secret' to a longer life. It was:

Not smoking, regular exercise, not being overweight and eating a Mediterranean-style diet.

And in June, the Express claimed there was an 'easy way to lose weight' and this 'secret' was being revealed just in time for summer. The secret?:

eat a lot more “natural” foods, such as fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt, while avoiding anything processed...cut out fizzy, sugar-sweetened drinks...Exercise reduced weight, while alcohol added.

Today's front page about heart disease is attached to an article written by Jo Willey. She begins:

The secret to fighting heart disease was revealed by experts last night.

'Last night'? Did people really not know that exercise, fruit and veg were good for your heart before 'last night'?

Willey goes on to explain that this 'miracle diet' is actually a 'healthy living plan' called 'Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan', which has been produced by the charity Heart UK.

But their press release on the Plan is dated 1 September. So not only are the general tips very well known, the specific plan is actually two week-old news.

And that is what they Express has decided to lead on.

Unfortunately, they haven't explained where the 'free chocolate mousse' fits into this 'miracle diet'.

Friday, 16 September 2011


A headline on the Mail's website today asks:

'Is nothing taboo?' For the Mail, certainly not 'death' because elsewhere on their website today - and for much of the day, placed quote prominently on the homepage - was this story:

The website happily posted the photo of two dead bodies hanging from a bridge - given the size of the picture, the 'graphic content' warning was utterly pointless.

And in the article, not only did the photo appear again, but the Mail decided to add an 'enlarge' button so you could see this couple's bloodied bodies in greater detail:

But, as the Telegraph's Tom Chivers pointed out, when it came to repeating the message that was written alongside the bodies, the Mail suddenly became worried about what we might see:

Next to the battered bodies was a sign reading: ‘This is going to happen to all those posting funny things on the internet, You better (expletive) pay attention. I’m about to get you.’

Yes - in the sentence above the 'graphic' picture of the tortured, disemboweled victims, they decide to censor a swear word.

It's not the first time the Mail's website has published such pictures - indeed, in June it ran four photos of two other people killed and hung from a bridge in Mexico.

In May, the Mail was highly critical of the BBC for discussing assisted suicide and for an episode of Inside the Human Body which showed the death of a man named Gerald. The paper said:

BBC bosses are facing huge controversy over the decision to show the death of Gerald, whose full name has not been released...

Critics said last night said the the BBC had gone too far in choosing to broadcast Gerald's death and that it was a cynical attempt to boost ratings.

Presumably, then, the decision of the Mail's website to post such images - and full CCTV footage of the 'horrific execution of man in New York' - is not a cyncial attempt to attract visitors to its website.

(The Mailwatch Forum includes a thread on the Mail's obsession with images of death)

Liz and Kate

Today, the Mail's Liz Jones asks:

Yes, why does the fashion world 'hate' Kate Middleton?

Perhaps some previous columns written by former Marie Clare editor Jones can help explain?

On 17 November 2010, for example, Jones admitted Kate's style 'showed promise' but:

Kate will have to ditch, overnight, much that she loves: the long, scuffed boots and woolly or fishnet tights. The sequins. The awful, ubiquitous baseball cap. The skinny jeans and wedge shoes. Wearing a Topshop dress on her birthday. The wraparound shades — we need to see her eyes.

She will have to do more with her hair other than simply dousing it in what looks like Pantene Pro-V. Kate shouldn’t lose too much length, but a Scarlett Johansson-style chignon would be good for big occasions.

Most of all, she will have to stop not being too bothered and simply pulling on something nondescript in black from Next....

Kate will need to be prepared for near-constant critique.

Indeed she will.

On 11 February, Jones questioned whether Kate had 'the right look for lunch':

Kate does her own make-up, which is commendably frugal, not to mention brave, considering her status. But in my opinion, she is hiding behind a little too much slap on this occasion, which serves to make her look old beyond her years...

The dress is a lovely choice... although I’d rather Kate wore British...

I’m afraid I don’t go for this jacket...Oh, and sorry to sound so picky, but a jacket done up over a dress is just wrong...

The thick black tight has become something of a Kate signature and one I wish she could be weaned off.

Two days later, she was doing it again, offering what she called 'constructive' criticism:

why the monochrome outfits and black accessories?...And why the dreary shapes?...

Kate is being badly let down at the moment in the fashion stakes

Just before the wedding, Jones had more:

I want Kate to make a splash. To make us gasp at every turn. Yes, in order to do this she is bound to make mistakes along the way...But at least she won’t be boring...

My main problem with Kate’s shopping spree last week is not her choice of labels, so much as that she shouldn’t be picking up clothes piecemeal, on a whim or, worse, in a last-minute panic. It is all so casual...staggeringly, mind-bogglingly cheap and disappointingly pedestrian.

When the Obamas visited Britain in May, Jones thought Kate 'blew Michelle out of the water' but:

My only gripe with Kate is her hair, which is now a little too long, and too flicked at the ends.

Then today, Jones talked of those who are critical of Kate's style:

they were queuing up not to praise her but to slate her...‘She’s a very ordinary girl’ one fashion editor told me dismissively; ‘she needs better make-up’, added another.

Wherever I turned, the sentiment was the same. Why such enmity?

Why indeed.

She does at least admit:

I, too, have criticised Kate’s fashion sense in the past (she wears navy court shoes and American tan tights, after all.)

But she also adds a thought that reveals more than perhaps she intended:

for all their sneering at Kate, style-setters tend to have gaping holes in their personalities.

(UPDATE: Shouting at Cows has also blogged on Liz Jones' views on Kate.)

Chocolate and exercise

On Thursday, the Mirror reported:

The Mail said:

 And the Express claimed:

The articles began with similar claims. Jo Willey in the Express said:

Chocoholics who shun the gym can celebrate – a little bit of dark chocolate can improve health in much the same way as exercise.

Tamara Cohen in the Mail said:

Eating dark chocolate improves athletic performance just as much as exercise, a study has revealed.

In each article, it was only in the third paragraph that it was revealed that this research was based on experiments conducted on mice. At the end of the Express' article, it says:

Could this be extrapolated to humans? “It is something we hope to identify in future studies,” said Dr Malek.

So the tone of these headlines and articles isn't really justified.

Indeed, the NHS Behind the Headlines view is that the newspapers 'overreacted':

These misleading headlines refer to the findings from a small study in 25 mice. The relevance of these findings to humans is uncertain...

These findings provide evidence that giving mice epicatechin can lead to increases in their muscular performance that are similar to those obtained by regular exercise.

Contrary to the statements made in the news reports, it is unclear whether the chemical would have the same effect in humans, and further research would need to investigate this.

Also, epicatechin is found in dark chocolate, but chocolate was not tested in this research. It is unclear how much would need to be consumed to get the levels that were given to these mice, or the appropriate level of epicatechin needed to get a similar response in humans. 

In conclusion, they say:
the study does not show that eating dark chocolate is beneficial, or that it is a substitute for exercise in humans, attractive though the idea is...Such statements are not backed up by this study.

'Overly optimistic'

The front page of Wednesday's Daily Express saw the paper proclaim another 'miracle cure':

A 'pill to beat alzheimers'. The paper's health correspondent Jo Willey explained:

A daily 10p vitamin pill could prevent millions of people being struck down by Alzheimer’s disease.

Research has found that vitamin B can help protect the brain from dementia.

A large daily dose of a combination of three types of vitamin B has been shown to slow mental decline in the elderly who suffer from mild memory problems.

Only a few months ago, Willey and the Express were claiming 'cake' was a 'cure' for dementia. That article claimed:

cinnamon, used in everything from cakes to curries, could be the “holy grail” in slowing or even eradicating dementia in patients.

Now it's Vitamin B:

The breakthrough could lead to a simple new treatment for people at risk of dementia which would be the “holy grail” of research into Alzheimer’s.

Skip to the end of the article and there's the inevitable clarification:

Professor Robin Jacoby, research author and Alzheimer’s Society trustee, said: “These studies add weight to the argument that vitamin B is good for our brains.

“However, people shouldn’t rush out and empty the shelves of vitamin B tablets. More research is needed to establish if it could prevent dementia.”

And the NHS Behind the Headlines team express further doubts:

While its results look promising, this small, well-conducted study does not show that vitamin B can help prevent dementia. However, it suggests that high doses of the vitamin may help some people with MCI, which sometimes develops into dementia. A larger trial is required to explore the possible role of the vitamin in slowing progression to dementia.

They add:

Newspaper coverage of this research has tended to be overly optimistic about the study’s findings. For example, the Daily Express described vitamin B supplements as a “Pill to beat Alzheimer’s”.

The Express also listed some “natural ways to beat dementia”, which include eating meat, fish and vegetables.

This information is misleading, as none of these foods has been found to prevent dementia. While the foods listed in the Express can be dietary sources of vitamin B, the amount of vitamin B in the pills used in this study was extremely high, and the study’s authors have been quoted as saying that they should be considered to be medicines rather than regular vitamin supplements.

The Mail, Mirror, Telegraph, Guardian and Independent also covered this research.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Star's latest 'exclusive'

Thursday's Daily Star claimed to have an 'exclusive' on its front page. It certainly was an 'exclusive' in the sense that no other paper carried the 'story'. But can they really claim it's an 'exclusive' when what they are describing didn't actually happen?:

'When Paddy groped Sally!' See what they did there? If only the large photo didn't completely discredit the claim in the headline.

In the blurb under the 'exclusive' claim, the Star even admits Paddy Doherty only:

appeared to make a grab for his BB bosom buddy. 

'Appeared to' - but didn't really.

Sally Bercow - who now writes a column for the Daily Star Sunday - said on Twitter that the front page was 'hilarious nonsense'.

She was half right.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Questions only the Mail would ask

The headline writers at the Mail certainly enjoy posing odd questions.

For example, in March they asked:

And on 29 August:

On Saturday, they came up with this poser:

And today, perhaps the most curious yet:

Daily Star Sunday: Not Britain's 'No. 1 paper'

On Saturday, the Daily Express decided to report on the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures which showed a slight increase in sales for the paper.

The headline, however, claimed that this increase meant there was:

The increase from July to August was 3,812 copies a day and this was the second consecutive month of increased sales.

But the daily circulation in August stood at 629,764. In May, they were selling 631,588 copies per day.

Moreover, when Richard Desmond acquired the paper in 2000, the Express' circulation stood at 985,253 and has never risen above that figure (despite what he claimed in a television interview). 

Despite using the 'World's Greatest Newspaper' slogan on the front page every day (don't laugh) it sells fewer copies than the Sun, Mail, Mirror, Star and Telegraph.

'No stopping' the Express?

The paper claims this month-on-month increase is partly down to its 'leading news coverage'

By 'leading news coverage' it must mean front page health 'secrets' such as exercise being good for you and smoking being bad for you.

And the Express isn't the only Demond paper celebrating the latest ABCs.

Today's Daily Star Sunday claims it is:

It's not clear how the Express can be the 'greatest' newspaper in the world if it isn't even 'No. 1' in Britain.

Anyway, obedient hack Neil Chandler writes:

We're the most successful newspaper in Britain – and that’s OFFICIAL!

The basis for this claim is that the paper has seen a 95% year-on-year increase in sales. Like other Sunday tabloids, it has benefited hugely from the closure of the News of the World.

What it neglects to mention is that in July 2010, it was selling a meagre 370,032 copies every Sunday - the smallest circulation of any daily or Sunday red-top in Britain.

The paper boasts:

Our performance was 28% better than the dull Sunday Mirror – and a stonking 29% better than the tired old People.

The paper is, however, only telling half the story with those figures and it neglects to mention something rather important.

In August 2011, the Daily Star Sunday sold 744,981 copies every Sunday.

But the 'tired old People' sold 892,033 copies every Sunday. 

And the 'dull' Sunday Mirror sold 1,900,460 copies every Sunday.

Indeed, not only does 'the most successful newspaper in Britain' (ahem) sell fewer copies every week than the Sunday Mirror and The People, it trails well behind the Mail on Sunday (2,098,244 copies) too.

Ignoring those inconvenient stats, the Daily Star Sunday soldiers on, explaining exactly why it's so 'successful':

No other paper got anywhere near. And it’s no surprise.

We stunned the world with our amazing exclusive that Jessie Wallace’s fella had sent a saucy pic of her to his ex...

And our exclusive that David Beckham had a gun guard was followed up around the world.

This is the best the paper can come up to show the quality of its 'news'. Rich man's bodyguard carries a gun. Soap star has relationship problems.

And wouldn't it have been hard to 'stun the world' with the Jessie Wallace 'news' considering most of the world doesn't know who she is?

The paper's assertion that it is Britain's number one is as hollow and ridiculous as the Express' 'World's Greatest' claim.

Mail clarification about Lord Coe

On Thursday, Mail diarist Richard Kay corrected an error that he made the week before:

My apologies to Lord and Lady Coe for reporting that they had hosted a party at their Surrey home at the weekend. Lord Coe was, of course, in South Korea at the world athletics championship in his capacity as Vice President of the International Association of Athletics Federations at the time. It was a case of mistaken identity by my source and I’m sorry for any embarrassment caused.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Mail clarifies green tax 'suggestion'

Another day, another clarification from the Daily Mail. This time, it's about 'green taxes':

Articles on June 9 reported comments from Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which suggested that ‘green stealth taxes’ are adding 15 to 20 per cent to energy bills.

According to Ofgem, the correct figure for environmental costs in domestic bills is currently no more than 9 per cent. We are happy to clarify this.

Only 'suggested'? Here's how the Mail reported this claim on 9 June:

It says very clearly in the sub-heading that a '£200 stealth charge is slipped on to your gas and electricity bill'.

The front page story was written by David Derbyshire and repeated the claims made by Peiser in an opinion piece which the Mail gave the headline:

Here's Peiser's exact words:

so-called green stealth taxes are already adding 15-20 per cent to the average domestic power bill and even more to business users.

There was an accompanying editorial from the Mail which said:

Yet the scandal is that these secret extras which add 15 to 20 per cent aren’t even itemised on our gas and electricity bills.

The following day, Derbyshire repeated Peiser's claim of 15-20% on a £1,000 bill in another article.

And on 15 June, an article by Lauren Thompson explained how the 'Mail revealed last week' that experts ('such as Peiser') said green taxes added £200 to domestic bills.

As yet, the clarification has not been added to any of these articles online, but as Mail editor Paul Dacre has made clear burying corrections is a 'myth', that surely will happen...

But then, as Dacre said that the claim newspapers bury corrections is:

one of the great myths of our time

you might have thought today's Mail would run this clarification on the front page, where the original claim was made.

It didn't.

The fact-checking website Full Fact looked at Peiser's figures on the day they were reported by the Mail (and others) and cast doubt on their accuracy then. Why didn't the Mail also query his claims?

The dangers/benefits of 'wine with dinner'

Last week, the Daily Mail reported:

The article by Daniel Martin explained the 'deadly risk' of 'wine over dinner':

Couples who share a bottle of wine over dinner are putting their lives at risk, according to a report.

The middle classes are unwittingly becoming ‘risky drinkers’ by regularly having wine with their evening meal, significantly increasing their susceptibility to conditions such as cancer and stroke.

These ‘suburban tipplers’ rarely get drunk, never binge drink and are not heavily dependent on alcohol, but they are still putting their lives in jeopardy.

And because women’s alcohol tolerance is lower than men’s, they are at greater risk than their partner if they each drink half of a bottle of wine.

Today, just over one week later, the Mail reports something rather different:

Now the paper explains:

A glass or two of alcohol in middle age could help women enjoy a happy and healthy retirement.

Those in their 50s who regularly have a little wine with their dinner are more likely to be free of the ills of old age, from cancer to heart disease, than those who are teetotal or drink to excess.

So wine with dinner is, apparently, bad for the middle class, but good for the middle-aged.

Advice for people who are middle-aged and middle class will, presumably, follow next week...

Daily Star, Big Brother, lies (cont.)

The Daily Star's coverage of Celebrity Big Brother shows no sign of slipping off their front page. It also shows little sign of reflecting actual events.

Wednesday's front page clearly implies 'sobbing' Amy Childs has got the 'BB boot' and has been voted out of the Big Brother house in an 'eviction shock'.

In fact, she's still in the house and hasn't been evicted - as Peter Dyke's article makes very clear.

If the show is as thrilling as the 'Official Big Brother Paper' wants us to believe, why does it feel the need to resort to such blatantly deceptive headlines?

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Sunday Express' front page 'news' on Pippa

The tabloid obsession with Pippa Middleton continues. The Mail website recently reported the stunning news that she had gone to a nightclub with her boyfriend and, a few days later, that she had received a parking ticket.

Today the Sunday Express runs the front page headline 'Cheeky Pippa ejected from a pub!'

The headline, plus the fact it's on the front page, would suggest that Pippa Middleton has been thrown out of a pub.

But as the page three article by Camille Tominey makes clear, that's completely misleading:

Pippa Middleton's posterior has caused a rumpus in a historic market town and has been booted off a pub sign.

The Bedfordshire hostelry’s landlord was ordered to take it down and rehang the more stately head of Catherine of Aragon...

Regulars at The Queens Head were initially treated to a picture of Kate Middleton to mark the Royal Wedding in April. Then Richard Hammond, who runs the pub with his son Daniel, replaced it with her sister Pippa’s rear after it was pointed out that Kate wasn’t yet queen.

So Pippa wasn't actually 'ejected from a pub' but a photo of her bum has been removed from pub sign.

Hold that front page...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Mail apologises to the Redgrave family

The Mail's sixth recent apology/clarification is published today:

Vanessa Redgrave and family

Our serialisation of a forthcoming book about the actress Vanessa Redgrave and her family on 7th May included the allegation that she had once found her husband in bed with her father. We accept that this incident did not take place and we sincerely apologise to Vanessa Redgrave and her family for the distress and embarrassment caused.

Pound still accepted on Eurostar

The front page of today's Daily Express says the 'pound is banned':

The sub-heading clarifies this slightly, pointing out that this is not a general ban but only 'barmy Eurostar bosses' who have, apparently, 'banned' sterling as it is 'not good enough'.

The Express 'exclusive' by Alison Little says:

Outrage erupted yesterday after Eurostar stopped passengers from using British cash to buy snacks on board its trains.

The crazy ban was part of a controversial plan to ditch the pound on the company’s cross-Channel services and force passengers to pay in euros instead.

There then follows predictable 'fury' quotes from usual suspects Gerard Batten and Philip Davies.

Did this outrage really 'erupt yesterday'? According to the story, the Express was contacted by a reader who discovered last Sunday that Eurostar were doing a seven-day trial during which they were not accepting cash payments in sterling in their buffet bar (debit card payments were still accepted). One other passenger left a critical message on the Eurostar's Facebook page on 29 August.

As ever, you need to skip to the end of the article for the full story. Here's the Eurostar spokesman:

“Like all businesses we continually monitor the range of products and services we offer to our customers and from time to time we trial new initiatives in order to better understand their views.

“Over recent years we have seen a decline in the number of cash-based sterling transactions as more customers choose to pay using debit cards.

“This prompted us to run a brief trial on board to gauge customers’ views about the possible withdrawal of this payment method at our buffets.

“Having listened carefully to the feedback from our customers it is clear that for many this is their preferred payment method and as a result we have decided to continue accepting cash-based sterling payments on board all our trains.”

So a week-long trial, during which people could still pay for snacks with their debit card, comes to an end and Eurostar decides to continue accepting 'cash-based sterling payments' anyway.

Or as the Express puts it: 'Sterling is not good enough say barmy Eurostar bosses.'